Nov 8, 2015

5 Simple mistakes that could kill your product

You can crunch CAC and LTV and MAU and DAU all you want, but there are simpler explanations for why your product may be underperforming.  Noodle on these simple ideas with respect to your business or product.  Hope it helps!

1. Not going where the people are - 

I was among the early members on sites like Producthunt (member # 2921) and (was founding member 16207).  Grid is an AI-based website builder, and is touted as an evolution/revolution in how websites are built.  I agree, but I later realized that for a website to matter you need eyeballs.  And to get that today, you don't build your own website.  You post on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.

If you are a single dude wanting to find a girl, you don't go to a bar full of dudes.  You join a yoga class full of single ladies.

So, I asked for my money back, and decided I didn't need an AI-built website.

Certainly, team is building value, as I'm sure AI will better optimize clicks and impressions and replace many human SEO/SEM consultants.  That said, the technology might be better applied in helping people share on existing platforms.  Or perhaps it can help optimize SMB marketing.  For example, Buffer has become a successful tool first and foremost because people wanted an easier way to post on Twitter and share on social media.

2. Going where it's too crowded - 

Going where people are is a truism.  That's not to say go where the crowd is.  If you show up where all the cool kids are, the problem is you might look like a loser.  At any given four-year term, there's only one President of the United States (POTUS) no matter how talented and smart you are.

Remember #1.  I'm not saying go to an empty pond where you can be king.  But, for the love of God, don't try to be another big social network.  Apart from being annoying, you'll get crushed by Facebook and Google.  So, to be clear, I'm not advocating Blue Ocean Strategy.  Going for an uncontested market either makes you a visionary or a fool.

(Apparently, don't do as I do, but do as I say.  I should be blogging on Medium and Quora, not here.)

3. Differentiate or die - 

Which brings me to marketing 101: differentiate or die.  As the world gets more crowded and user time more scarce, you need to be remembered.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Which is why Hollywood stars know that any publicity is good publicity.  Worst thing is for people to forget who you are.

What are you doing to stand apart from your competition in the minds of your customers?

What are you doing to emotionally connect with your users?

I think one reason StartupDigest was/is so successful compared to other startup events lists is because it's memorable at many dimensions.  It achieved this partly by using local, human curator, who could express the relevant and important startup themes to the audience locally.  You couldn't do that with one global curator.  And even if you could, people appreciate knowing someone local, so you always lose that edge.  (Of course, the offset is cost, but the local curators were volunteers.)

4. Missing the feedback loops - 

This is just another away of saying don't build myopically.  Often, one piece of the puzzle is related with another, with another, with another.  And understanding how that little flame burns will either enable you to build a bonfire or end up flaming out.

With so many tools available to streamline communication (e.g. Slack) and process flows (e.g. Git), this should not be a big problem for most teams.

5. Not minding the culture - 

And building on that last point, it all comes down to your team.  Your processes and good communication will determine how effective your team can work.  But, ultimately, it's your team culture that makes or breaks your team and your product or your business.  It's the most important of the nodes in your feedback loops.  Mess up the culture, and everything else will fall apart.

No need to repeat stories of scores of startups that grew too fast, messed up its culture, and imploded across many dimensions of its business - Homejoy, Fab, WebVan, et al.